Congregation of Notre Dame

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Congregation of Notre Dame

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        The Congregation of Notre Dame (C.N.D.) have lived and worked in many Cape Breton communities including Louisbourg, Arichat, Port Hood and Sydney. Their first school was opened at the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1726; the Sisters were taken prisoner during the first siege of the Fortress in 1744 and sent to France. They returned in 1748 to continue their work and were forced to leave for a second time in 1758 during the second siege of the Fortress. In 1856, nearly one hundred years later, the Sisters of the Congregation returned once again to Cape Breton but this time they settled in the remote Acadian village of Arichat, on Isle Madame (Scott, p. 74). The C.N.D. taught school in Arichat from1856 to 1900 when the school closed, and had a presence in Port Hood beginning in 1884.

        The building of the Sydney convent was financed by the contributions of parishioners across eastern Cape Breton and built by a local contractor, John Morely. On November 23, 1885, three Sisters arrived in Sydney and took up residence at Holy Angels Convent. The Superior-General of the Congregation de Notre-Dame responded to a request by local pastor Fr. Quinan for help to begin educating local youth and sent Sister St. Domitilla as superior, St. Helen of the Cross as the music teacher, and Sister St. Mary Alexis to Cape Breton. The three Sisters were joined in December by Sister St. Margaret of the Cross, the first English speaking teacher at the school, and instruction at the new private institution began in early 1886, after the first boarders arrived on January 2nd. The attendance grew steadily during the first few years of operation, yet the school suffered from financial instability at times.

        In December of 1892, Holy Angels opened as a public school due to a need for financial support from the province and municipality to keep the school open. As a result, the administration of the institution shifted and Mr. MacKeen, Principal of Sydney Academy, School Inspector MacNeil and Protestant School Commissioners were appointed. The school continued to grow in the early years of the twentieth century, both in terms of student enrollment and curriculum development. In 1906, the foundation of the new building began, located on the northern part of the property. In September 1907, the superintendent of Sydney Schools declared that all senior students of Holy Angels would have to transfer to Academy to finish their instruction. The convent school would no longer offer senior courses. As a result, Holy Angels was again designated a private institution. By the year of its golden jubilee, Holy Angels had grown from four Sisters to twenty-eight. Sister St. Margaret of Scotland was installed as principal in 1936.

        The school fluctuated between being a public and private institution during the first half of the twentieth century, but with the opening of the high school in 1953 it became a near-permanent fixture in the local public school system. From 1959 on, Holy Angels High School, as a part of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board (CBVRSB), accommodated Grades 10 to 12 and serviced female students from across Cape Breton Island. All courses offered at Holy Angels High School were developed by the Nova Scotia Department of Education and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board leased the school building from the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. Some of the programs at the school included the Nova Scotia International Student Program, a French Immersion Program, the Duke of Edinburgh Program, the Options and Opportunities Program, and the Creative
        Art Certificate Program. The CBVRSB announced on October 28, 2010 that it would close Holy Angels High School, as the Sisters of the C.N.D. had decided to sell the school and convent properties. The last class was graduated in Spring of 2011 and remaining students were transferred to other CBVRSB schools. The Convent and School buildings were sold to New Dawn Enterprises Ltd., and the Sisters relocated from their Convent home.


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